IRS controversies boost chances for tax reform, key Republican says

Rep. Tom Price, a major conservative voice in the House, sees 'a greater opportunity' for tax reform in the wake of IRS controversies. He made the comments at a Monitor breakfast Wednesday.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Rep. Tom Price, vice chairman of the House Budget Committee speaks at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.

The controversies swirling around the Internal Revenue Service increase the odds that Congress will pass a major package of tax reform legislation this year, says Rep. Tom Price (R) of Georgia, vice chairman of the House Budget Committee and a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

The IRS has been hit by bad news on two fronts recently. The agency’s inspector general released a report in May revealing that IRS workers had targeted groups with conservative-sounding names that were seeking tax-exempt status, delaying their applications and seeking intrusive information. And on Tuesday, the IG reported on abuses at employee conferences that the IRS held at hotels, including instances where senior agency officials received luxury rooms as well as free drinks and food. At one training conference, total costs were $4.1 million. 

“I am not one of those who believes this puts the kibosh on tax reform,” Representative Price said Wednesday at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters. “It gives us a greater opportunity,” he said. Price is a major conservative voice in the House, having served as chair of the Republican Policy Committee and the Republican Study Committee.

Given the public’s concerns about IRS misbehavior, “anything we can do to simplify the tax code and make the Internal Revenue Service less threatening to the nation, to the citizens of this country, would be a good thing, and I think that is something that more people will embrace,” Price said. That echoes Ways and Means chair Dave Camp (R) of Michigan, who told a hearing Tuesday that IRS targeting of conservative groups showed the agency was using “a broken tax code to abuse individuals.”

Not all members of Congress believe the tax agency’s missteps will be a major force in promoting tax reform legislation. Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, told The New York Times that the strategy will not work. “Tax reform has to stand on its own two feet, and if it doesn’t, it will lose any chance to succeed,” he said.

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